Ah, it’s good to be back with a regular old Dear Mark. Today we’re discussing the nutritional value of canned salmon, and whether the canning process negates some or much of the impressive nutrient profile of fresh salmon. After that, I discuss the dietary views of Ray Peat, an increasingly popular topic in the MDA forums and a seemingly wildly divergent way of eating. Is there any reconciliation to be made between Peat and Primal? I think so, actually. Finally, I explore why we might be inherently drawn to crispy, crunchy food despite the lack of potato chips, Fritos, and Pringles during the most formative years of our evolution.
Do the packages of Chicken of the Sea Premium Wild-Caught Pink Salmon offer the same health benefits as a wild caught piece of salmon? Just looking for an easy way to get more salmon in my diet. Thanks!
For the most part, yes. Let’s break down the various health benefits and see how the canning process might affect them:
Minerals: Salmon is a rich source of various minerals, with selenium being the most prominent. Since heating doesn’t really break down minerals, you won’t lose any to the canning process. If you’re worried about minerals leaching into the salmon juice, just mix it into the salmon.
Vitamins: Thiamine is somewhat vulnerable to canning, but most of it is retained. Other B-vitamins (the only ones really found in salmon) are also well-preserved.
Vitamin D: Salmon is one the best dietary sources of vitamin D around, and canned pink salmon is no exception with around 400-500 IUs for every three ounces. Canning doesn’t change that.
Omega-3: Most research confirms that omega-3s are retained in canned fish. One study found that the most abundant fatty acid in samples of canned Mexican tuna was DHA. In another study, canned tuna, salmon, sardine, and jurel all retained high levels of omega-3s. Of course, there are some losses. Subjecting skipjack tuna to the canning process in another study totally eradicated the DHA and EPA levels. Meanwhile, the overall omega-6 PUFA content of the tuna increased due to migration from the canning oil.
It comes down to cooking time, temperature, and cooking brine/oil. Fish canned in brine or water are more susceptible to oxidation than fish canned in oil, with extra virgin olive oil being the most protective due to its polyphenol content (more protective even than synthetic antioxidant preservatives designed to prevent oxidation – nature wins again!). The description of the Chicken of the Sea canning process is generic, so it’s difficult to say anything definitive. But all in all I think canned salmon is often a great alternative to fresh.
What do you think of Ray Peat? I’ve noticed that some forum users like what he has to say. Where do you stand on his protocol?
Thanks for the question, Jon. Yes, I’ve seen that Ray Peat has been a topic of discussion in recent months. I’ll give you my take, but first a little overview on the “Peat protocol.”
It’s hard to talk about a “Peat protocol,” simply because the man himself hasn’t laid out a cohesive prescription (by design). From what I can tell, people are cobbling together a dietary regimen based on bits of advice Peat has doled out over the years in email consultations, excerpts from some of his research articles, and interviews he has given. I get the sense that his advice is very individualized and tailored to the person who’s receiving it rather than meant to be prescriptive to everyone. Most people are just reading the tidbits pulled from disparate sources and formulating a protocol based on them even though those tidbits weren’t necessarily intended for everyone. I doubt Peat himself lives off of nothing but gummy bears, OJ, coffee, and salted milk.
That said, there do appear to be some foundational principles that we can examine. Let’s take a look at them:
Saturated fats – Both camps agree that they’re awesome, stable and resistant to oxidation, and totally safe in the context of an otherwise healthy diet. The same goes for monounsaturated fats, which often appear alongside saturated fats. No arguments here.
Grains and legumes – Both camps avoid them, especially gluten-containing grains. Both camps agree that of the grains, rice and corn are the least problematic.
PUFA avoidance – Peat and followers consider polyunsaturated fats to be toxic (both omega-3s and omega-6s), whether from whole foods or refined oils. I’ve always maintained that too many PUFAs, particularly omega-6 PUFAs, are problematic and inflammatory. The problem is that the studies they cite as evidence used refined oils, not food. They’re not feeding wild salmon to rats, or raw almonds to poultry. They’re giving refined diets rich in industrial seed oil because that’s the simplest way to modify PUFA content while minimizing confounding variables that might change the results (like selenium and astaxanthin in salmon or vitamin E and magnesium in almonds). I understand it, I just don’t think the results are necessarily applicable to whole foods that happen to contain PUFAs. And heck, the claims that PUFAs in any amount are hugely anti-thyroid and will shut your metabolism down just don’t pan out. One recent paper even found that omega-3s increased thyroid function in the liver. Given his recommendation of eggs and shellfish, I think Peat will admit a little whole food-PUFA is fine.
Sugar – Peat is “pro-sugar,” which many people interpret by eating plain white sugar by the quarter cup. I think this is a mistake and a far cry from what Peat actually promotes. From what I can tell, Peat is pro-sugar-via-fruit. Now, I’m obviously not a fan of fruit-based diets, but fruit is a whole unprocessed edible plant food, with all the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that category entails. Fruit therefore is a legitimate source of calories, particularly if you’re active.
High-fat diets – Followers avoid high fat intakes, citing Peat, but Peat’s primary reason for limiting fat is to avoid PUFAs. He even says that “if the fat is mostly saturated, from milk, cheese, butter, beef, lamb or coconut oil, I think it’s usually o.k. to get about 50% of the calories from fat.” I think that’s reasonable.
My general impression is that the “Peat protocol” is anything but definitive, and what we can establish isn’t all that far removed from the Primal umbrella (albeit a high carb section of it). Now, as for the people mainlining table sugar and avoiding bananas because of the starch and skipping the leafy greens and berries because of the minimal amount of PUFAs and fearing muscle meat without an accompanying tablespoon of gelatin (or pack of gummy bears)? I think that’s all a little silly. Then again, if it works for you, it works for you. I’m not going to tell you to stop doing something that’s working (though I might suggest a few ways to improve).
You know, I bet Peat would be quite at home at PrimalCon. He might hoard the fruit and spike the coffee with crushed thyroid pills and aspirin, but I don’t think we’d catch him sneaking off to a grocery store for skim milk and strained orange juice or anything. His followers might be a bit disappointed in the California king salmon, though.
Why do we like or crave crunchy foods, especially since crunchy foods didn’t really exist to Grok? When I say crunchy foods, I’m more talking about modern crunchy foods such as chips. (Certainly you must have overheard someone at a party/gathering say they like “the crunch” of a chip or something).
When I think of anything crunchy on a Grok menu, I think of fresh peppers, carrots, or (stretching it here) cucumbers, or maybe even seeds or nuts – but there is nothing quite like a chip to give that ‘crunch’. Are we tapping into our primal genes here, or have we fallen victim to the chip companies who really sold us on the crunch[…]?
Thanks again Mark, hope all is well with you!
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. A Thai family stripping a freshly roasted duck of its entire epidermis before touching even a morsel of muscle meat on the outskirts of Bangkok. I watched pork fat and pig ear shards glitter in the dark near a Malibu beach pig roast. All those moments will be lost in time, like spatters of fat to a grease shield.
If you were at PrimalCon Tahoe a couple weeks back, on the last night there, you’ll remember how Chef Aflalo made this braised beef dish that had the crispiest exterior (well, at least the part of the exterior that wasn’t submerged in braising liquid). It was incredible. I had to stop myself from snatching the crispy bits from other plates. And growing up in my family, the Pope’s nose on a roasted chicken (the fatty little tail nub) was prized and coveted by all.
My point? Crunchy or crispy food is great and inherently alluring, but I don’t think you need chips or crisps or industrial-sized vats of corn oil to get it. All you gotta do to turn fatty animal skin into crispy deliciousness is apply the simplest, most universal technology of all: fire.
Besides skin, you’ve also got all the edible arthropods humans and our ancestors have been eating for millions of years – the insects and the crustaceans. You may not have eaten a bug yourself, but you’ve probably stepped on one or two and heard the crunch. Just imagine that happening in your mouth, perhaps after a light roasting.
I imagine that some combination of crispy animal skin and crunchy arthropods – two relatively common dietary factors throughout human evolution – shaped our taste for crunch. Both bugs and crispy skin would have represented important nutrients to early humans: the protein and micronutrients found in insects and the animal fat found in animal skin (even an otherwise lean animal will have plenty of fat attached to its skin). The crunch may merely be a signal for healthy foods that’s been co-opted by food scientists. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.
That’s what I’ve got, guys. What about you? What are your thoughts on canned (or pouched) salmon, Ray Peat, and crispy food?
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.